The NCAA this morning announced a new, joint television deal with CBS and Turner Broadcasting worth over $10.8 Billion that covers the next 14 years, thru 2024, and expands the field, not to 96 teams as has been rumored by some, but to 68 teams, meaning there will be eight teams, playing four play-in games starting next spring.
Late Wednesday, the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee unanimously passed a recommendation to the Division I Board of Directors to increase tournament field size to 68 teams beginning with the 2011 Championship. The recommendation will be reviewed by the Division I Board of Directors at its April 29 meeting.
Starting next season, the first and second round NCAA tournament games will be televised on CBS, TBS, TNT and something called truTV. CBS and the Turner networks will split the coverage of the Sweet 16 games, and CBS will televise the region finals and Final Four.
Starting in 2016, coverage of the region finals will be split by CBS and Turner Broadcasting, with the Final Four and the National Championship game alternating every year between the CBS Television Network and Turner's TBS.
Details of coverage of the playin games haven't come out, but finding those games shouldn't be a problem.
The ESPN network, which is the home of coverage of the Division I Women's Basketball Championship, College World Series, and Frozen Four, was unsuccessful in their efforts to add men's basketball, but undoubtedly forced the move from a single network, and drive-by coverage of early round games, to the network approach to covering games that coincide. In the first and second rounds, there are times when four channels are required to provide dedicated coverage of all games.
The challenge for some fans could be "Tru TV" and their local cable/satellite carrier, should their team wind up on that channel. Tru TV was formerly known as "Court TV" and may not be present on some systems, whereas TNT and TBS, two of the oldest satellite/cable channels are generally available, though over-the-air only customers will lose much of their access.
The expansion by only four teams means the NIT, the CBI, and CBA tournaments probably all can survive as well. Expansion to 96 teams would probably have signaled the end or consolidation of at least one of the events.